Time Machine Works, Parental Controls Don’t

by Dean Mattson

The trouble with any backup strategy is that you don’t really know how it’s going to work out until disaster strikes. Will all your files be available? How much time and effort will it take? What will you do if your backup doesn’t work?

Yesterday I got my opportunity to test my backup plan. It wasn’t really a disaster. During the weekend I tried out an application that promises to free up some hard drive space on your computer by getting rid of some of the files you don’t really need. Except it got rid of some files I do need. When I was doing something to get ready for kindergarten students today, I found out that one of my programs would no longer work.

I spent quite a bit of time on some less radical fixes but none of those panned out. I decided the only thing left to do was to reinstall the operating system, but even that didn’t work: The installer didn’t like the changes I had made and quit.

So I decided to give my Time Machine backup a try. When you start up from your Leopard DVD, you get the option of restoring from a Time Machine volume; I picked the last time I backed up before the weekend: last Monday.

It took two hours, but when it was done, it was perfect. My computer had all the files I had last week and everything was working as normal. Since I had backed up right before I did this, I was able to restore the important files I had made or acquired since then.

I was very happy with how well this worked. I’m even thinking of getting one of the new Time Capsule wireless hard drives, so I’ll automatically be backed up at all times. Right now I only bother to connect an external hard drive only once a week. Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to worry about that at all?

Since I’m giving Apple high praise for Time Machine, I guess it’s only fair that I point out something they hasn’t been so successful: Parental Controls. Great in concept, but buggy in execution. It makes Firefox almost totally unusable. Students can’t log-in to many websites, many websites don’t work and then there are times when Leopard arbitrarily decides to block a website and doesn’t give you any way around it. I hope we’ll see some fixes for this in the forthcoming 10.5.2.